Professor Stuart Logan

£10 million boost for South West health research

A £10 million partnership in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, which supports research with direct impact on patients' health and on improvements to the way in which NHS care is delivered, is to begin its next five year phase this month.

The National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR CLAHRC SWP) was established as one of the first nine CLAHRCs in the country in 2008. It was a partnership between the University of Exeter, Plymouth University, the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, and the NHS in Devon and Cornwall.

The next phase will see the partnership between the two universities and the NHS, now including  the NHS in Somerset as well as Devon and Cornwall, continue work for another five years.

Since 2008 NIHR CLAHRC SWP has supported projects which have had a significant impact on patient care and the way in which services are delivered. It has also helped to draw in other grant funding resulting in a doubling of health service research funding coming to the South West in 2011/12 compared to 2007/08.

A central part of the way the collaboration works is to conduct research based on questions from the people directly affected by the issues under investigation: doctors, nurses, therapists and, importantly, patients.

Project highlights include: enabling the implementation of a cheap, easily available drug which is delivered by paramedics to reduce the risk of death from haemorrhage after trauma; developing an intervention to reduce obesity in school children; creating partnerships to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities in the most deprived neighbourhoods; risk assessment tools to help GPs identify and quantify a patient's risk of cancer based on their symptoms; the plotting of so-called 'care pathways' to ensure that victims of stroke receive a drug vital to a fuller recovery within an effective timescale.

A particular area of strength in which NIHR CLAHRC SWP has taken a national lead is the meaningful involvement of patients and the public in research. Patients and members of the public take an active role in research, helping to set the research agenda, working with researchers to design and conduct studies and helping to make sure that the results get used in practice. NIHR CLAHRC SWP PPI experts are among the leaders in the UK on the subject, having hosted a national conference on PPI and provided advice and support to PPI projects around the UK and Europe

The next phase of research will focus on five main themes: mental health and dementia; diagnostics and stratified medicine (where treatments are 'individualised' to the needs of patients); health people, healthy environments; person-centred care; and evidence for policy and practice.

Professor Stuart Logan, Director of NIHR CLAHRC SWP, and also Director of the University of Exeter Medical School's Institute of Health Research, commented: "Over the next five years we will continue to invest effort and resources in projects which will produce a step-change in the quantity and quality of patient-focused research. We believe that this work will lead to improved health outcomes for patients and the public by increasing the capacity of clinical professionals to use and generate research evidence, and by helping to change the culture of health organisations so that the use of evidence-based research becomes normal business. In many cases we may be able to bring new or improved treatments, therapies and techniques into general use much faster than traditional research avenues, which can take years to progress from 'bench to bedside'."

Date: 3 February 2014

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